Beyond the Rhetoric
By Harry C. Alford & Kay DeBow
When we were growing up the mail service was something we could take for granted. As the American population grew and towns became cities and worldwide business was linked and business came at the “speed of thought,” the demands for punctuality and accuracy became oh so important. Most business is done by mail. But as business speed becomes more and more important alternatives are being created to meet the new demand. Federal Express, Amazon, UPS, DHL, emailing, etc. are becoming a growing alternative to “snail mail.”
A typical letter carrier is only human and that means there are flaws that make certainty or accuracy not necessarily an automatic function. Carriers make mistakes and when they do our business may suffer. Checks get “lost” in the mail. A letter may come within two days or it may take five days depending on the human factor in the process.
Our latest relocation has made us familiar with the current state of our postal service. We moved from northwest Washington, DC to downtown. Online we put in a change of address notice and a request to forward all mail to the new address. Judging from previous moves we thought that would be a simple process. But “No More!” It now takes a letter to be forwarded across town an average of 14 – 25 days. There is a certain percentage that will become “lost” never to be seen again. Since our move we have “lost” significant checks, credit cards, billings and other important business matters.
What happened to the efficiency? The instructions on forwarding our mail says that if we don’t receive the forwarding mail within 10 days we should call and voice a complaint. Patiently, we waited 20 days before doing that. We were assured that it would be corrected within 24 hours. However, it was never corrected, in fact, it became worse, so we placed another complaint. After waiting an hour plus on another phone call, they gave us another case number and assured us that the situation would be changed. Not true! We are in the last week of January and mail that is postmarked in early December is just now reaching us. We had an important legal document become lost in the forwarding and had to spend an amount of money to have it resent.
One time about a year ago, we went out of town and our security guard told our letter carrier to just leave the mail in the box and we would pick it up at the end of the week. The carrier refused and proclaimed that it was a “vacation hold” and that we would have to come to the postal center to sign a return status and receive the collected mail. OK, we thought we could simply drive to the post office down the street and sign off and get our mail back to routine status. But no!!!! We came to find out that the “postal center” was not the neighborhood post office but a huge warehouse on the Maryland border about an hour away. We had to drive over there and arrive before 8:00 a.m. to sign the form and get our mail. What a waste of time and inconvenience!
Such is our current United States Postal Service. It doesn’t help to complain as the postal workers’ union will protect those carriers and preserve their inefficiencies. Each year we see the same news on television: USPS loses billions of dollars due to inefficiency and waste. Meanwhile, FEDEX, UPS, Amazon, etc. are racking up billions of dollars in profit and their stock continues to soar high.
There is no doubt in our minds that the time has come to privatize our postal service. President Trump has that on his “To Do List” but we want to speed that process up. Our postal system should be regionalized and competitive with alternative ways of delivery. It probably will not cost us any more than the pricing today. Cost should be on a measurable rate: the more you mail; the more you pay. Various companies should compete for your choice in mail service and the markets should drive their worth and value.
We don’t want to lose any more mail which means money, business performance and anxiety. We envision a new postal service or services that are accountable to the public and its investors. Private corporations will beat government in performance every time. Our mail is no exception. It is Neanderthal to think that the way we did something decades ago should remain the same.
Come and join us in this movement. It is time to privatize our postal system!!!
Mr. Alford is the Co-Founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®. Ms. DeBow is the Co-Founder, Executive Vice President of the chamber. Website: www.nationalbcc.org. Emails: [email protected]; [email protected].